Mobile devices are gaining significant traction with American College of Surgeons (ACS) members, with a 191 percent increase in the use of iPads and a 24 percent increase in iPhone rate usage over a one-year period, according to a recent survey of the membership. Interestingly, though, for those surveyed, print and online journals are still the preferred choice to satisfy their professional needs, with 54 percent viewing professional journals online.
The survey revealed that while not all surgeons fully understand or approve of the role of social media, they are more interested in using it as a communications tool. Compared with a similar survey conducted in the fall of 2010, more respondents now show a willingness to embrace social media, provided their primary communication vehicles (ACS NewsScope, the Bulletin, Journal of the American College of Surgeons, and so on) remain intact.
The purpose of the survey was to gain insights into how the College can use social media platforms to engage with members, and to track changes from the survey in 2010. Participants were asked to list their usage habits on various communication channels, and they were encouraged to comment about their individual experiences—feedback which provided important insights into usage interests and patterns.
Based on this feedback, the ACS put additional effort into building a strong social media presence at last year’s 97th Annual Clinical Congress in San Francisco, CA, in order to develop member engagement with social media.
Based on a strong initial response to the survey, social media awareness and interest appear to have increased since 2010 (see Figure 1). By the end of the first day alone, the survey accumulated 950 responses, compared with a grand total of just 324 responses in 2010. The survey ran for two weeks and by October 4, 2011, a total of 2,070 responses had been collected. Slightly more than 81 percent of the respondents were male, 46.3 percent were between the ages of 46 and 64, and 94.8 percent were 30 or older.
Key findings from the study include the following:
- Mobile device usage is on the rise. As technology and wireless access increases, mobile device use to access the Internet, as well as social media in general, will continue to grow. More and more members are looking for mobile apps to access information.
- Traditional news consumption stays balanced. Respondents are receiving their news using a variety of media sources, with online news websites leading at 64 percent, followed closely by broadcast outlets (55 percent) and newspapers (54 percent). Almost a third of respondents (28.6 percent) said they receive news from their mobile device, and a majority (47 percent) of write-in answers included radio news programs such as National Public Radio as vehicles for staying informed on current events.
- Professional information gathering holds steady. Respondents showed that industry news is still largely gathered through print and online journals, with 54 percent viewing professional journals online. Professional meetings and industry conferences were top write-in choices for how surgeons stay informed on a professional level.
- Blogs and online forum usage continues to lag. According to the survey, members don’t typically spend a lot of time participating in online forums or blogs. For those who do participate in these areas, participation has decreased slightly from 2010 to 2011. A total of 29.9 percent said they participated in forums and blogs in 2011 compared with 34.9 percent in 2010.
- Privacy remains a key concern. Key factors hindering some members from participating in social media include concerns about privacy and a lack of understanding about how to use social sites to tap into professional information. To understand how to properly use social media in a professional manner, look for ACS’ Social Media Policy coming out in 2012 as a guide to identify what types of information are for public use.
- Awareness of ACS social media presence has increased. Although many respondents still were unaware that the ACS is communicating and sharing information via College-branded social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr, awareness has increased from 2010 to 2011 in each of the following areas, representing modest but steady gains:
- A total of 25 percent of the members surveyed were aware that the College has a presence on Facebook, up 22 percent from 2010.
- Awareness of the ACS Twitter profile was also up 22 percent compared with 2010.
In addition to posting news and updates on Facebook and Twitter, the College shares video on YouTube and photos on Flickr. Awareness of both of these channels has risen significantly over the previous year—for YouTube there was a 77 percent increase in awareness and for the College’s Flickr account there was a 104 percent increase, as shown in Figure 2.
Social media at Clinical Congress
In response to feedback from the 2010 survey, the College integrated a more robust social media presence at last year’s Clinical Congress program to increase the organization’s presence online, share real time updates from the conference with followers, and encourage participation among attendees. ACS developed social media signage throughout the conference to promote the College’s social media sites, and take-away bookmarks featuring the College’s online destinations were available at registration. Quick response (QR) codes were added to this year’s bookmarks to direct smartphone users to the Clinical Congress mobile application.
The ACS also hosted a Social Media Resource Center where attendees could work one-on-one with experts to answer questions about navigating various social websites and connecting to the updates the College provides via social media.
The ACS worked with six volunteer surgeons to tweet about special topics at Congress. These ACS Twitter correspondents included the following:
• David Tom Cooke, MD, FCCP, FACS (@UCD_ChestHealth)
• Philip Glick, MD, MBA, FACS (@glicklab)
• Niraj J. Gusani, MD, MS, FACS (@NirajGusani)
• Osama Hamed, MB, BS (@hamed_os)
• Raphael Malikian, MD (@NavyBlueScrubs)
• Oluwatosin O. Thompson (@tosinthompson)
Social media metrics comparing usage over the last year can be found in Figure 3.
Clinical Congress-related tweets led to an increase of 122 Twitter followers for the College. These tweets also resulted in 1,234 @AmCollSurgeons or “American College of Surgeons” mentions from October 15 to October 31. In addition, the event hashtag #ACSCC11 received more than 1,100 tweets within the same time frame.
Efforts to strengthen communications via social media will be a priority for many organizations in the coming years as social media becomes more ingrained in the way people communicate. The ACS will be one of them.
Currently, the ACS is working to determine best practices for members to better understand and effectively use new media. The College leadership encourages members to visit the websites shown in Figure 4 to find and share the latest news and information from the ACS.
The authors of a recent article published in the Bulletin emphasized the fact that social media isn’t a passing fad, and offered practical ways that surgeons can use social media to enhance their communication and patient education. The authors concluded the following: “This tool [social media], when understood and used properly, can give surgeons tremendous leverage over the availability and quality of online information, and it is a major potential source of education for the surgical community, and, perhaps more importantly, the patient population.”*
* Yamout SZ, Glick ZA, Lind DS, Monson RAZ, Glick PL. Using social media to enhance surgeon and patient education and communication. Bull Am Coll Surg. 2011;96(7):7-15.